IT’S either Google Docs or Samsung Notes for me. This is probably sacrilege. The whole romance of writing is lost. The flourish and scritch of pen-point. The fulfillment from filling up a page. At least paper and ink are patient when the words do not come out. But the screen on your smartphone darkens and gives up on you after twenty-five seconds of non-action. Autocorrect is irritating. The letters are too small. Exposure to the screen worsens my astigmatism. But I write more on the screen now than on paper. One day after writing half a page in a sturdy notebook and a good pen, I ditched the pen and turned to my smartphone. I ended up finishing the essay on Samsung Notes. What has happened? My mind has graduated from the analogue to the digital. I have now come to prefer the basic plainness of sans serif to my own loopy handwriting.
In the spirit of the micro-essay a la Scotty’s “Chips” (1987) which his publisher described as “chips of thought on sundry matters” and which Arcellana simply called “little articles…little essays…little pieces,” I pull out chips from my journals in Google Docs and Samsung Notes:
‘MAHARLIKA‘ IS THE WORD THE MARCOSES LOVE TO (AB)USE. It was the former President and Dictator who popularized the notion that “maharlika” meant “nobility.” But if there was a pre-colonial order of nobility in the Philippines, it would be referred to as “maginoo,” not “maharlika.” The “maginoo” consisted of datus and other titled lords; whereas, it was the “maharlika” that served the maginoo as a kind of warrior class that provided seafaring military services.
There have also been instances when the maharlika were expected to harvest rice, do manual labor, and/or pay agricultural tribute. Early dictionaries would define the maharlika as “freedmen” and “libertos.” Freedmen were former slaves, and upon their freedom, they did not become nobles, but rather, in Scotty’s words, “the class ancestors of the Filipino peasantry.”
Perhaps the use of the word in the controversial Maharlika Investment Fund is accurate after all. Who else is the milking cow of this Maharlika Fund but the real maharlika, the Filipino peasantry?
AKLAY GAVE ME A STAR-ANISE because I began to sniff about his jars, which were everywhere: on the bookshelves, on the tables, mad alchemy. He took a star-anise from a big jar of stars from his kitchen and gave it to me. I placed the star-anise inside the breast pocket of my flannel shirt. Weeks later, I forgot about my flannel shirt, and the star-anise in its pocket. Soon, after having thoroughly forgotten that the spice was still inside, I threw the shirt in a bath of detergent and fabric conditioner. It was only after my flannel had been washed, dried, and hung that I remembered Aklay and his gift of spice. I scrambled for the star-anise. Surprisingly it was still intact, save for one lost prong. I sniffed it. Amazing. The essence of anise was still there. It had survived the chemical assault of Downy and detergent. I put the star-anise between the pages of a small notebook. Days later, I took out the star-anise and it still smelled like star-anise. To my surprise, all the pages of the notebook began to smell like star-anise. It was a phenomenon straight from a magic realism novel.
“THEY WERE GODS,” said Paul Masillem as he held a CD containing folk classics popularized by Igorot singers in the 1980s and 1990s. He was referring to the roster of singers featured on that CD re-released by Dusty Road Records as Dakami nga Igorot. There were sixteen songs including Joel Tingbaoen’s “Dakami nga Igorot,” Lourdes Fangki’s “Montañosa,” and Elmer Hull’s “Diway” — songs that, as far as I’m concerned, imagined the Mountain Province.
But clearly Mr. Masillem was being hyperbolic, echoing the popular view that Joel Tingbaoen and his contemporaries were the pioneers for this kind of vernacular music made popular among an Igorot audience. One cannot help but pursue the hyperbole further: how these pioneering singers who sang in the vernacular and reverently of the Philippine highlands had almost divined a regional identity. Right at a time when “Cordillera” was legitimized and “Igorot” became a thing of pride. A musical reifying our ethnicity.
GRIEVANCES AS A HAYSKUL TEACHER. The cemetery is our backyard. I don’t say na may sungay ang mga bata, just: the kids have antlers, like, say, the Ganduyan Bucks. One of them threw a packet of Marlboro Lights into the gutter. An empty can of Red Horse. On the rocks. In a student’s backpocket is a cutter, for the fun. Ibang level of mischief ito: they brought a real case of San Miguel for a role play — it was “Prodigal Son.”
The tables have a weird shape: it rhymes with paranoid. I am paranoid about one class that does their mathematics on whitewashed walls. Cutting classes is like cutting grass — takes place at the back of the school. Someone found the missing key of Room 5 at the bottom of a garbage sack. They are writing sonnets in their CRs and the walls are turning black. Someone hacked into the WiFi around midnight: and smashed the window while I was about to call it a day. Adi, a night.